Nautilus

How to Solve Oncology’s Labor Crisis

Cancer doctors are overworked, retire early, and attract fewer recruits than other specialties, leaving the rising cancer-patient population vulnerable. Here’s what must be done.Photograph by Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy / Getty Images

I watched a man die today. We were “rounding” when we were summoned to his room. He was struggling to breathe, and we knew that the breaths he was trying so hard to take were among his last. His weary body was worn out from widespread cancer and the rigors of therapy, and it was finally just giving out. It’s not like it wasn’t expected. He had made his peace and he was ready. But still, it was hard. His wife softly cried, “This is so surreal. How could this be happening?”

Later that day, we sat with a woman who had just had major surgery to remove a throat cancer. While the surgery was successful and she has an excellent prognosis, it comes at a cost; she can no longer speak, and she breathes through a surgically created opening in her neck. It’s been three weeks and her progress is slow. She is so discouraged. “I’ve had it,” she scrawled on her electronic communication board. “I can

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